Gov. DeSantis to launch presidential campaign next week, sources say

Author: Aaron Navarro, Fin Gómez and Ed O'Keefe / CBS
Published: Updated:
Governor Ron DeSantis during his 2023 inauguration speech. Credit: WINK News

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to make his entry into the 2024 presidential campaign next week officially, three people familiar with the planning tell CBS News.

His plans to file papers with the Federal Election Commission formalizing his presidential candidacy is timed to coincide with a Miami gathering of some of the governor’s most generous longtime donors, who are expected to receive briefings on campaign strategy and requests to help raise significant sums of cash for his bid, three people familiar with the plans said.

A more formal kickoff event is expected to be held closer to June 1, according to those familiar with his plans.

A DeSantis spokesman declined to comment. The news of a launch next week was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, his political operation moved out of the state GOP headquarters to a new office in Tallahassee, a move that cost more than $5,000 and triggered a federal campaign law requiring DeSantis to register as a candidate and designate a principal campaign committee within 15 days.

Asked in Sarasota, Fla., Monday if he’d announce a run within the next 15 days, DeSantis noted he had “a couple more things left on the [legislative] agenda,” including the state budget.

DeSantis’ entry in the 2024 presidential race comes after months of visits to early presidential primary states and across the country to promote his new book and tout his legislative record as governor. DeSantis was in Iowa for multiple events this past weekend.

He is currently serving his second term as Florida governor after he was reelected by a nearly 20-point margin in November 2022. In the state’s latest legislative term, which ended in May, DeSantis signed a succession of bills popular with conservatives, including a six-week abortion ban and one that established permitless concealed firearm carry. On the road, he’s also been highlighting bipartisan bills that would increase teacher pay, lower prescription drug prices and cut taxes for home goods.

He cruised through the GOP primary for governor in 2018 after he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and won the general election by 32,463 votes.

DeSantis served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2012 to 2018 and was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. After graduating from Yale and then Harvard Law, DeSantis served in the Navy as a JAG officer and was deployed to Iraq.

His prominence in the Republican party rose with his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when he lifted lockdowns on businesses and in-person schooling sooner than other states. His “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender studies up to the 3rd grade has also resulted in a high-profile fight with the Disney Corporation after its former CEO voiced his opposition to the legislation. That prohibition has since been extended to the 8th grade and under.

DeSantis has proven to be a prolific fundraiser — his state political committee, “Friends of Ron DeSantis,” has received $225.8 million in donations since launching in January 2018. He has also raised more than $4.3 million for Republican organizations in 10 different speaking engagements since March, according to his political team.

A super PAC supporting DeSantis, “Never Back Down,” launched earlier this year and has already raised over $30 million.

The “Friends of Ron DeSantis” state committee has more than $85.7 million cash on hand that may be transferred to a PAC, but not directly to DeSantis’ campaign. The governor officially disassociated himself from that committee earlier in May.

So far, he has consistently placed second to Trump in early 2024 presidential polls but has maintained a double-digit lead over other potential Republican challengers. Trump announced his third bid for the presidency in November 2022.

A CBS News poll from late April showed 58% of likely Republican voters would support Trump in a primary, while 22% picked DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tied for a distant third, with 5% a piece.

In recent months, top GOP donors have been reluctant to publicly support a DeSantis bid, spooked because of the six-week abortion ban he signed in Florida and his characterization of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.” Congressional Republicans also criticized his Ukraine comment, which he has since said was “mischaracterized,” and added criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he called a “war criminal.”

Trump has consistently targeted DeSantis at campaign events and on social media, and his PAC, “MAGA Inc.”, has run ads slamming him for votes he took as a congressman on Social Security and Medicare reform.

DeSantis has declined to confront Trump by name, but after an interview with The Messenger, in which Trump criticized Florida’s six-week abortion ban and said “many people within the pro-life movement feel that that was too harsh,” DeSantis offered one of his more direct responses.

“And I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn’t give an answer about, ‘Would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did?'” he said Tuesday. “I signed the bill. I was proud to do it. He will not answer whether he would sign it or not.”

DeSantis has also often talked about how the Republican party has to shake its “culture of losing” in recent elections, including in 2020 when Trump lost to President Joe Biden.

“I didn’t see a red wave across this country [in 2022] and so I think the party has developed a culture of losing. I think that there’s not accountability. And I think in Florida, we really show what it takes to not just win, [but] win big and then deliver big,” he said Monday.

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